Many have thought one of the most difficult industries in which to successfully brand a company is in retail petroleum. Anymore, those retailers are called convenience stores but we know most of them by the petroleum producers, such as BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil and the like.

The difficulty lies in consumers picking gas stations based on price, location and convenience.

Well, at least that’s the excuse.

It’s the same excuse used by fast food restaurants, yet consumers will seek out the brands most important to them. Even in the petroleum industry, Sheetz has done a fine job in creating preference, even if its MTO (“made to order”) feature is a bit misguided.

So it was intriguing for me to see that Phillips 66 was beginning an initiative emphasizing the role of branded marketing.

brands_66stationBut it’s not brand the company is talking about. It’s about loyalty programs, such as a discount card and an app, as well as additional revenue streams by airing advertising on its TVs inside its stores.

Most petroleum retailers have loyalty cards and, while they should be offered, they do not create preference by themselves.

Maybe the problem isn’t that branding petroleum retailers is difficult. Maybe the problem is that the retailers themselves don’t know how to create preference for its brand beyond cost, location and convenience.